The Druids

by Greywolf the Wanderer (a 2000 Write Byte)


While researching information on the Tuatha de Danaan, I discovered a wealth of references to the life and times of the Druids; sources include The Wurzburg Codex, The White Goddess, Lost Cities, Ireland’s Fairy Lore, The Religion of the Ancient Celts, Mythology of the British Druids (Edward Davies, 1809), and the Horizon Book of Lost Cities.

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Positions & Dress

The true origin of the Druids is shrouded deep in the mists of time, and although romanticists have associated them wrongly with the builders of the stone megaliths, they appeared sometime after the disappearance of the “Stone Followers,” that mystical race of mathematicians and astronomers responsible for Stone Henge and the like. They did, however, have the knowledge to utilizethe great stone monuments, but more of that later.

Historians and archaeologists loosely agree on a rough time of appearance of the Druids in Britain between 1600 and 1400 B.C. From my research, I would lean toward the earlier figure, as historical references place them in Ireland in 1472 B.C., when the Tuatha de Danaan arrived there, and were well established as seers for the court of the King of the Firbolgs. The cult appears to have originated in the British Isles, as the earliest mention of the movement in Europe occurs in Gaul about 200 B.C., and according to the Bards of that time, in order to be properly trained, an Acolyte had to travel to Britain to be “properly ordained,” what-ever that means. They also referred to Britain as the seat of the Druid Heirachy.

When the Danaans displaced the Firbolgs as the ruling race of Ireland, the Druids flourished under their guidance. After the fall of the Danaans at the hands of the Milesians (who would later evolve into the Celts), they were adopted by the peoples who came afterwards. Even though the Celts maintained temples to their own Gods, they celebrated the religious rites of the Druids as well. We know this due to the Celtic references to Druids, as well as “Gutuatri,” which were priests of the Celtic temples, which were built of wood, and more rarely, stone.

Druidism appears to be a clannish cult, as they lived in small groups, or “communes” with their wives and children, separate from what-ever race ruled the land, indifferent to the politics of the day. Their communities were generally placed deep in the woods, with their dwellings generally being wood huts with thatched roofs, with a communal cook/ritual-fire in the center of a ring of dwellings. Their Hierarchy was based on levels of knowledge, beginning with youths of either sex, at the level of Aspirant. As the youths developed, they attained the next level, referred to as “Ovate.” Once these youths reached their majority (adulthood, as deemed by their respective clans), they became Novitiates. There were twelve stages of Novitiate, from the first cycle to the twelfth cycle. Thus, at the end of a twelve year Novitiate, they came to the rank of Druid, abandoning the colored robes of lesser rank to don the Black or gray robe of the Druid. After a period of highly specialized training, generally lasting from three to five years, depending on the individual, the Druid became a High Druid, wearing an all white robe, and specializing as an instructor in Arts, General Teaching, Councilors, Arbitrators, judges, etc.

Apparently, positions above High Druid were elected, on a special day each year called the Day of Renewal. We shall delve more thusly into that concept later on, as we examine their calendar. It is their New Years Day, December 23.

The next level that a Druid could attain was that of “Chief Druid,” ruling over a group of clans and wearing white robes with scarlet trim. Trim design was governed by the group of clans, and many different symbols were used, from trees to animals, to eventually, Celtic knotwork and designs. Above this level came the Arch-Druids, who wore white robes with gold trim; this post governed geographical regions, with several Chief Druids under them. They general had their own retainers, and administered the great Druid Colleges, which they would locate in sacred woods or groves. There was a college dedicated to the Poets, the Bards, the Historians, the Healers, Herb and Spell Lore, Seers Derwydd, from which the word “Druid” is derived, means “Oak Seer”), Magic Use, Astronomy and Astrology. To reach the rank of Druid, a Novitiate had to “graduate” from each of these colleges, requiring the pupil to travel all through the country and meet and get to know all of the ranking Druids of his day. This would in turn, aide him at his time of election.

Above the rank of Arch-Druid came the legendary rank of “Great Druid,” who wore a white robe with intricate trim of scarlet and gold, along with necklates of gold and bracelets of gold to mark his exhaulted rank. The Great Druid ruled the entire cult, and presided over all of the great rituals on the major holidays.

There is a special rank that existed, although the duties of the position has been lost in time, and that is of the “Hierophant” or “Priest-King.” One can well imagine what his position might entail.

Of the Druids who served Kings, their attire seems to have been more unique. The Chief Druid of the King of Erin, for example, wore purple robes, while the Chief Druid of Northern Albany wore a bull’s hide, with a white, speckled bird head-piece, complete with fluttering feathers.


The beliefs of the Druids that have survived the moldering of time are wide and varied, but all are along the lines of nature. They believed in many otherworlds, such as Mag Mo’r, The Great Plain; Mag Mell, The Pleasant Plain; Tir’ n’ Aill, The Other World; Tir’ na M-Bed, The Land of the Living; Tir’ na nog, The Land of Youth; and finally Tir’ Tairngiri, The Land of Promise. Their Gods were many, ranging from the King Oak and the Queen Ash, to Drui-en, King Wren, the king of the birds. Humanoid resembling deities were also worshipped, such as Hu and his queen, mother or daughter. Many sub-cults existed within the Druid beliefs, including a sect of weapons, i.e. Hammer, Axe, Spear, Bow, and later, Sword; the Priestesses of Sena (Druidesses that existed from Druidism’s earliest development as a cult, until around 600 A.D.); and finally the Dryades, which was a Druidess sect originating around 400 A.D. and ending around 600 A.D.

Their temples were simple affairs, usually a table stone, pile of stones, or sacred wood supported by stone, located in open spaces in forests, sacred groves, mounds, caves, lakes, rivers, or even the Eldritch stone circles left behind by the mystical “Stone-Followers” of the distant past. Then, there was the Oak Cult.

The rituals of the Oak Cult were many and varied. They usually began with a human sacrifice, utilizing a sword, spear, a sickle-like knife, ritual hanging, impaling, dismembering, disemboweling, drowning, burning, burial alive, and a partridge in a pear tree. The method was generally related to the deity summoned, such as fire elementals (burnings), water elementals (drownings), air elementals (impalement on a high stake), earth elementals (burial alive); tree gods were appeased with hangings. For growth and fertility, dismemberment was utilized, with the blood of the victim spilled liberally on the ground. For divination, disembowelment was the rage, using a sickle-like knife, or later, the sword. The entrails were then removed from the victim, and “read.”

Various methods were used to cure diseases, the belief being that a life must be given for a life to be saved. And while this did not always result in a healing, it did, quite effectively, control the population.

To ensure victory, various methods were used, as was the case of surviving battle sacrifices. Many different methods were used to sacrifice humans to avert danger, as well. Them Druids were quite ingenious when it came to sacrificing. Why, as a retribution for defeat in battle, the wounded and the feeble were slain; often times, a great war leader would sacrifice himself to ensure the safety of the survivors. For a rite of thanksgiving, many victims were sacrificed, sometimes as many as a hundred in a day. A cheery lot, them Druids. (Maybe this is why they are so rare now-days). Many of the victims were generally slaves, their wives and children. Criminals were also sacrificed, as well as captives and enemy survivors. Female victims were first de-breasted, with the removed “pouches” then stuffed into their mouths, causing choking, and then, a stake was ritualistically driven slowly through their bodies. Their bodies were then hung in a sacred grove, for the birds to feast upon.

First borns were often sacrificed to ensure fertility. The Romans, of all people, my favorite decadent race, those witty people who brought you the gladiator games, and feeding Christians to the lions for public sport, were appalled by the human sacrifices practiced by the Druids, and they outlawed human sacrifice in Britain in 62 A.D. They had previously ended it in Gaul in 40 A.D. This seems extremely ironic. I guess maybe it would have been more to their liking if these rites had been performed in an arena, where tickets were sold. Then, instead of a religious practice, it could have been called entertainment.

The Romans were also appalled by the Druidic practice of head-hunting. The Druids would hang the heads of their enemies from the saddle-bow, or fix them on a spear as a trophy. They would also preserve them in cedarwood oil, or piled in great cairns. The Druids were also practitioners of cannibalism, a favorite topic in Rome’s Vomitoriums, I am sure.

Druidic divination was not all gloom and doom for some hapless victim, as other methods were used. Bird and beast behavior was observed, and these animals voices were listened to as well. Flames were stared into, as well as the smoke trails from ritual fires. A special ritual, called Imbas Forosnai, was used to discover hidden things; meat was chewed raw, and then offered as sacrifice; if enlightenment did not arrive in a days time, an incantation was chanted into the palm. The hand was then placed over the seer’s eyes while he slept, with the answer coming in the form of a dream. Dreaming itself, was a coveted form of divination. Incantation was used as well. The Tevum Laegha utilized a verse repeated over and over above a person or thing of relevance, as the Druid placed his staff on the body or object and knowledge was obtained. This, however, was preceded by human sacrifice. A special incantation, the Ce’tnad, was sung through the fist to discover the track of stolen cattle, or a thief. If enlightenment did not come, dreaming was used. It was also addressed to the Seven Daughters of the Sea and repeated until the chanter entered into a trance. The length of peoples lives were discovered in this manner. It was also sung to sleeping Druids to ensure their enlightenment.

Enfrenziment was another method used, the seer going into a frenzy and his ravings being read. Chewing acorns and hazel nuts were also believed to bring knowledge. Finally, cloud scrying and star-gazing were used. Other rituals included The Mistletoe Rite, The Twig Rite, and of course fire burning, a rite that was practiced at all of the other rites the Druids performed.

Ritually celebrated festivals were held during Geimredh (Winterhalf), at the First Quarter, Samhain on November 1st., The Second Quarter, Earrach on February 1st.(aka Oimelc), during Samhradh (Summerhalf) at the Third Quarter, Beltane on May 1st.(aka Cet’-soman, Cet’-samain, First Day of Somonos, or in Welsh, Cyntefyn), and during Foghamhar, the Forth Quarter, or Lugnasadh on August 1st. (akaBrontroghain); this was performed in the nude, with a ritual orgy to ensure fertility. Rituals were also celebrated on the Day of Renewal, the Druid New Years Day, on December 23rd. This was a grand gathering held at a central location, where disputes were settled, appeals were heard, and elections were held.

Druids also practiced a form of baptism for new-borns, sprinkling the baby with river, lake or sea water to consecrate the birth. They practiced a rite of sacrificing their hair to their gods to mark their ministry. They had rites for Magic, Healing, and they even ritually grew Primrose for the Faeries.

Druid Magic

Magic was performed by using three key elements; spells, including incantation, gestation, and material usage; Amulets, and Power Items. Posture was important as well, the proper stance being recorded as standing on one leg with one arm outstretched, and one eye closed. This appears to be a universal Druidic stance, for I have found references of this from Julius Caesar to Tailisin. They had a range of spells, for weather control; healing; human and animal fertility; shape-shifting; invisibility; magic sleep (hypnosis?); animation of trees and rocks; morphing of trees and rocks into fully armed warriors; illusions and mass hallucination; throwing mountains on an enemy (from the Druid Mathgen); filling the air with the clash of war; raising the sea; summoning fog or mist; shadow killing (stabbing a victims shadow, causing death); and “the sending,” where items were flung in the victims face, causing madness, and sometimes a broken nose.

Common Amulets were the wheel or disk, a white marble ball, Quartz pebbles and crystals, boar teeth, amber, Animal figures, (Animal amber figures were considered extremely powerful), and of course, Phallus symbols.

They made potions as well, being world renoun for poisons, Aphrodisiacs, and the Drink of Oblivion, which would cause the imbiber to suffer complete memory loss. The famous Druid Figol, son of Mamos, used potions to help his spell of sending showers of fire to stop bravery and sap strength. He also used potions to put sickness in men, probably a poison of some type.

Power items used by the Druids included wands made from Yew and Willow, Staves made of Oak, Mistletoe, and an item called a “Glain,” or magical snake egg. These “eggs” are believed to be petrified sea urchins that had been scavenged from early bronze age burial mounds. Geodes were considered to be powerful, as well as any natural crystal.

Druids were Seers, Healers, Bards, Historians, Magicians, Priests, and what is less well known, powerful warriors as well. Though they did not wear armor, they carried shields made from White Poplar, and even had a shield-maker college. They were expert fighters with the staff, bow and arrow, hook-bill (sickle, usually of copper or bronze), axe, spear, and later, sword. Their weapons were constructed out of stone, copper, or bronze. Iron was rarely used, as it became available to them relatively late in their history. Iron was also shunned, because it repelled the Faerie folk, of whom they also worshipped.

Differences were usually settled by arbitration, but clan warfare did erupt from time to time. During Druid battles, selected poets from both sides would withdraw together to judiciously discuss the fighting and thus come to a mutual agreement to its outcome, making the tale of its occurrence universal from clan to clan.

Druidism spanned over twenty-two hundred years of known history as a major religion and cult. At the height of its power, it was forced into hiding in the British Isles by the Roman invasion in 62 A.D., which practiced an ancient form of birth control against them (called “annihilation”). And although they re-emerged with the rise of Vortigern after the Roman departure, they never fully recovered to the numbers that they achieved during their zenith. Of course, with the Christian invasion of the Sixth century their days were numbered. By 600 A.D., they had all but vanished.

The Gods of the Druids

Many are familiar with the Gods in the Druid pantheon that are direct manifestations of nature, such as the Oak Tree and the Ash, but few people know that they actually had a God and a Goddess in their own image. Whether these beings were adopted from other races or not is unknown, but there are some interesting parallels. The rituals to these Gods and Goddesses were recorded by various Bards who witnessed the events. Specific accounts were left by the Bard Aneurin, who was a contemporary of Hengist and Tailiesin (6th. century A.D.) during the decline of Druidism as a great power. He states, however, that it was a very ancient ritual in his day. Either way, the origins of the Deities are unclear. I have some ideas, of course. Keeping this in mind, I shall relate what I have gleaned from the perusal of many countless ancient manuscripts, scrolls, and other ancient accounts.

The God was known as Hu (Hee) Gadarn, or simply “Hu the Mighty.” He lived and walked the earth during the time of the great flood (believed to be the same one that Noah saved mankind from, which was a story that the Jewish people stole from the Sumarians. Called the Gilgamesh epic, I have surmised that Gilgamesh, Noah, and Hu the Mighty are probably the same man). It is not clear from the stories just exactly how Hu saved the ancient Druids from destruction, but it involved some great achievement he performed with his oxen, and according to legends, he did it so well so as to prevent the flood from ever occurring again. At any rate, he somehow collected together and carried the primitive race, and formed them into families and communities. He gave them the first traditional laws for the regulation and government of society. He was eminently distinguished for his regard for justice, equity, and peace. He conducted the several families of the first race to their respective settlements in the various regions, but he had also instructed this race in the art of husbandry prior to their removal and separation.

His rites were celebrated by the Druids at specific lakes, and follows is the “eye witness” account:

“The usual residence of this tauriform god, was in his consecrated cell, or ox-stall, on a rock surrounded with the billows, the rock of the supreme proprietor, the chief place of tranquillity. At a certain season, his festival commences with the adorning of the rock and the cell; then, a solemn proclamation is issued, the bacchanals hasten to the jolly carousal, and, amongst other extravagances, pierce their thighs, so as to cause an effusion of blood. This was at the season of May, or when the song of the cuckoo convinces the appointed dance over the green. Eminent is the virtue of the free course, when this dance is performed; loud is the horn of the lustrator, when the kine move in the evening. And the dance is performed with solemn festivity about the lakes, round which and the sanctuary the priests move sideways, whilst the sanctuary is earnestly invoking the gliding King (The Dragon, Bacchus) before whom the fair one retreats, upon the veil that covers the huge stones. This is also the time of libation, and of slaying the victim. This sanctuary is in the island which had floated on the wide lake, but was now fixed on the margin of the flood. Here, the sacred ox, the Ych Banawg, is stationed before the lake, to draw the shrine through the shallow water to dry ground. There is the retinue of the god, there is the procession, there the eagle waves aloft in the air, marking the path of Granwyn, the solar deity, the pervading and invincible sovereign.”

Aneurin also describes an accident, or mystical incident which occurred during the rite:

“In the presence of the blessed ones, before the great assembly, before the occupiers of the holme (the priest’s sacred island), when the house (shrine of the god) was recovered from the swamp (drawn out of the shallow water), surrounded with crooked horns and crooked swords, in honor of the mighty king of the plains, the king of open countenance (Bacchus); I saw dark gore (from the frantic gashes of the bacchanals) arising on the stalks of the plants, on the clasp of the chain (of the oxen), on the bunches (ornaments of their collars), on the Sovereign (the god himself), on the bush and the spear (the thyrsus). Ruddy was the sea beach, whilst the circular revolution was performed by the attendants, and the white bands, in graceful extravagance. The assembled train were dancing after the manner, and singing in cadence, with garlands on their brows; loud was the clattering of shields round the ancient cauldron, in frantic mirth; and lively was the countenance of him who, in his prowess, had snatched over the ford that involved ball, which casts its rays to a distance, the splendid product of the adder, shot forth by serpents.”

(Is this a fabled ‘Glain’, that Druids prize? Me thinks it is.)

Hu was the god of ancient Mona, the accredited seat of the Druids.

Now, the goddess, her identity is less certain. She has at times been the mother, the consort, and the daughter of Hu (kind of a pagan trinity, don’t you agree?). She had the names Ked, Ceridwen, Llad, and Awen. She had a daughter who was known as Creirwy, or Llywy. She presides in the same floating sanctuary as Hu. She and him are proprietors of the mystic cauldron. In conjunction with Hu, she has the tittle of ruler of the British tribes, and consequently, the privilege of investing the chief Bard, or priest, with the dominion of Britain, pertains to her and Hu jointly. Her symbol is the sacred boat. As Hu was identified with the sun, she is identified with the moon. He is often depicted as a bull, and she as a cow.

The Druid Alphabet

DRUIDIC TERM = Pethboc – ENGLISH TERM = Dwarf Elder – LETTER = “P”


DRUIDIC TERM = Eadha – ENGLISH TERM = White Poplar – LETTER = “E”

This was the beginning of the Ancient Irish Alphabet, only the Irish changed T to Gorse, O was Broom, and A was Elm.

The Druid Year

The Druid Alphabet was used only for sacred purposes and divination. Each consonant of the Alphabet represented a moon cycle, therefore, the Druid year was comprised of thirteen months. The extra day was a “non-calendar” day of ritual, used to “renew” the year.

First Month – “Beth” – (Birch): December 24 – January 20
Birchwood was used by the Druids to whip evil spirits an influences from the human body.

Second Month – “Luis” – (Rowan): January 21 – February 17
Rowan was burned to summoned spirits to fight for the Druid’s causes. Its berries were magicked to produce sustenance of nine meals. It was used to heal the wounded, and could add a year to a man’s life. It was also used in the great oracles.

Third Month – “Nion” – (Ash): February 18 – March 17
The Sacred Tree Of Rebirth, three of the Magic Trees of Ireland (The Tree of Tortu, the Tree of Dathi, The Branching Tree of Usnech) were Ash trees. There were a total of five Magic Trees in Ireland. These three were felled in A.D. 665 to symbolize the Christian victory over Paganism. A footnote here, the Sacred Tree of Creevna, in Killura, stood until the nineteenth century, when it was carried piecemeal to America by migrating victims of the Great Potato Famine. All of these trees dated from the Druids.

Fourth Month – “Fearn” – (Alder): March 18 – April 14
The Alder was the holy tree of Bran. In The Battle of the Trees, it fought in the front-line. It is the Battle Witch of all woods, and is hottest in a fight. Though it burns poorly, it was used by the Druids to make their sacred charcoal. It’s green branches were used to make whistles to conjure up the North Winds. Milk pails were made of this wood to protect the milk.

Fifth Month – “Saille” – (Willow): April 15 – May 12
Willow is derived from wicker, as were the words witch, and wicked, and it is the preferred wood to construct wands from. The Druids made wicker baskets to hold their sacrifices during the full moon.

Sixth Month – “Uath” – (Hawthorn): May 13 – June 9
Whitethorn or Hawthorn was considered unlucky, and was used to cast harmful spells. Hawthorn was used to abstain from sexual activity, as it was believed that a child conceived during this month would come to no good. Five torches of Hawthorn were burned the night before the month began, to help survive the month, and marriages were banned. The custom of May being an unlucky month for marriage came from this.

Seventh Month – “Duir” – (Oak): June 10 – July 7
Duir is derived from the word Door, and the Oak was considered a dimension door of sorts to the Druids. The Head of the their pantheon, the Royal Oak, king of all trees, was used to pass through the forest, to other oaks within the woods. Its wood was used exclusively to stoke the Midsummer fires.

Eighth Month – “Tinne” – (Holly): July 8 – August 4
Holy was second only to the Oak in sacredness. Not the traditional holy native to the British Isles today, this tree was the Scarlet Oak, which is infested with a scarlet, berry shaped insect which was used to make a red dye, and aphrodisiac elixirs. It is also the sacred tree of the Furies.

Ninth Month – “Coll” – (Hazel): August 5 – September 1
The nut of the Hazel was consumed by the Druids for wisdom, and it was believed to be the source of all knowledge of the Arts and Sciences. A forked Hazel stick was used for divining the identity of murderers and thieves. It was used to find water, and buried treasure as well, a practice still used by water witches today. Druidic heralds carried White Hazel wands as a symbol of their station.

Tenth Month – “Muin” – (Vine): September 2 – September 29
The Vine was not native to the British Isles and was brought there by the Tuatha de Danaans, where it did well in southern areas of the Isles. It was used by the Druids to make their sacred wines, Blackberry being the most sacred. The Danaans taught the Druids the fine art of wine-making, insuring the vine’s sacred status.

Eleventh Month – “Gort” – (Ivy): September 30 – October 27
Ivy was consumed by the Druids to stimulate dreaming, a true insight to the future. Dreaming was a very important oracle, revered nearly to the level of human sacrifice.

Twelfth Month – “Pethboc” – (Reed): October 28 – November 24
Peith stood for NG originally, or Ngetal, the Reed. Only later did it signify Peith, the Guelder-Rose, or water Elder. The reed was carried by Egyptian Pharaohs formed into a scepter. It was holy to the Druids for making sacred darts and arrows.

Thirteenth Month – “Ruis” – (Elder): November 25 – December 22
Elder was used by witches as magic horses. Its flowers and bark were used as medicine. It was also associated with death.

December 23 – New Year Day – A day of sacrifices to insure that a new cycle would begin.

The Voewls & Their Stories

Ailm – (A) – Silver Fir : The Phoenix was born and re-born on its burning branches. It was the famed Tree of Life in Babalonia. It was the Nymph Cyllene’s sacred tree. She was the wife of King Pelasgus, founder of the Pelasgian race, from which the Danaans sprang. The Fir Goddess was the Queen of the Druids.

Onn – (O) – Furze : Furze’s golden flowers typified the young sun at Spring Equinox; Furze fires lighted the hills at this time. It was also used as a defense against witches.

Ura – (U) – Heather : Heather was used for love spells. A tea made from its leaves was used as an aphrodisiac.

Eadha – (E) – White Poplar : The Tree of Old Age, White Poplar was sacred to the Autumnal Equinox. It was also used for making shields. It was used to make the Fe’, or coffin makers measuring rod, used to measure corpses.

Idho – (I) – Yew : The Death Tree. The sacred tree of Hecate. It was used to make wine barrels, and more important, bows. Its berries, when mixed with Hellebore and Devil’s Bit, was used as a poison to tip darts and arrows. One of the Five Magic Trees of Ireland, The Tree of Ross, was a Yew. Ancient Irish Kings wore a broach wheel of Yew. It was also used in the spell of knowledge.


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